2019 Women's AFCON Semis: Mali, Cameroon, South Africa & Nigeria go to war
Nigeria, Mali, South Africa and Cameroon have made it to the semi finals of the Africa Women’s Cup of nations.
Friday night saw the last Group A matches being played with Ghana taking on Cameroon and Mali taking on Algeria. Ghana failed to recover from the setback of losing to Mali 2-1 in the second group encounter. The Black Queens needed a win to secure a semi final appearance but unfortunately they were held to a 1-1 draw by Cameroon’s fierce Indomitable Lionesses. Mali on the other hand had their date with destiny as they overcame Algeria 3-2.
Nigeria successfully dismissed Equatorial Guinea on Saturday with a 6-0 defeat while South Africa and Zambia drew 1-1. Equatorial Guinea finished at the bottom of Group B standings as the two time champions lost all three of their group stages matches. The very poor performance comes as a huge blow to the Nzalang Nacional who had successfully appealed a ban by CAF to claim their qualification just in the nick of time.Their poor performance is highly indicative of their lack of adequate preparation time despite their successful appeal.
Group A winners Cameroon will now face Nigeria in their semi-final clash on Tuesday. This semi-final will feel to many like a final due to the competitive history of these two giants in the tournament. Nigeria are ten time champions while the Cameroonians are still to claim the title despite being very close on a number of occasions. The last time Cameroon came close to lifting the cup was in the 2016 edition of AWCON when Nigeria dashed their dreams in the final once again as they did in 2014. The Indomitable Lionesses are definitely up to the task of dismissing the Nigerians, however the Super Falcons have never been an easy match for the Cameroonians or vice versa.
Banyana Banyana will meet Mali in their semi final encounter which promises to be just as exciting. Banyana Banyana have continued with their pre-tournament form and have been consistently churning out solid performances. Along with combined efforts, Thembi Kgatlana has been a star player and an important asset for South Africa in the attack as well as a goal scoring maestro. Despite their superior group stage performance, Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis is not taking any chances by unrating their west African counterparts. After all, Mali caused the biggest upset thus far after knocking out hosts Ghana to qualify for the semi finals by finishing second in Group A, a fact that the South Africans are very much aware of.
I predict a Nigeria vs South Africa final simply because of South Africa’s superb tournament form and because of Nigeria’s hunger and determination that saw them bouncing back from that initial loss in the first game. Are we going to see South Africa vs Nigeria go head to head in the final or perhaps it will be a Mali vs Cameroon affair? Either way, the teams that claim the first, second and third positions will receive an automatic qualification to the 2019 FIFA World Cup, a goal that will be at the top of the minds for all four countries going into their semi-final showdowns.